Uche Akpa, left, and Diane Maxon, right, of the group Jersey City Together address the audience at a community meeting at St. Paul Episcopal Church in Jersey City on Sunday, March 26. Photo via Focal Point JC, copyright Ricardo Kaulessar
Tenants, Community Group Want Substandard Conditions Remedied at Jersey City Buildings
Candace Johnson recalled her recent tenancy at 159 Bergen Avenue. The memories were anything but pleasant.
“I lived in the basement apartment, and more than once, when there was a heavy rain, my apartment was completely flooded,” said Johnson, while holding up an enlarged photo of her former residence. “The first time, after no response to my calls and faxes, I stayed.”
Johnson would go on to say that when the apartment flooded a second time, mud and dirt covered the entire apartment, and she had to leave the apartment for three days. And she said there was again no response from the landlord, which led to her doing the cleanup of her apartment herself.
Johnson was one of the several tenants who shared their horror stories about living in a Jersey City building controlled by River Edge/Trendy Management, a Clifton-based company, at a community meeting at St. Paul Episcopal Church on Sunday, March 26. (According to information provided by Jersey City Together, River Edge Management recently changed their name to Trendy Management, thus the reference River Edge/Trendy Management.)
The meeting was organized by Jersey City Together, a coalition of religious congregations from across the city. Per a fact sheet put together by the group, their members, some of whom are tenants in River Edge/Trendy Management buildings, have over the past nine months spoken to residents about the issues they have had while residing in the buildings.
The group found that in the 60-plus rent-controlled buildings overseen by River Edge/Trendy Management, problems included unprofessional repairs, lack of heat and long-term tenants pushed out to bring in higher-paying renters.
Jersey City Together along with tenants want from the management company such concessions as addressing the documented problems in the buildings and provide in writing the rents raised in their buildings over the past four years.
The coalition had hoped to get a public commitment from Esther Kaplan, one of the principals in River Edge/Trendy Management, as she was scheduled to speak at the meeting, said Reverend Tom Murphy, the pastor of St. Paul’s Church. Murphy told the packed crowd that Kaplan declined to attend due to “health concerns,” and that she had expressed concerns to Murphy before the meeting about her safety and the stress of speaking at the meeting.
“I understand that too, the stress of being in a room with 175 people, being in a room with that many people,” Murphy said. “People who have been personally affected by your actions, and neighbors who are concerned about their brothers and sisters, that’s stressful.”
Also in attendance were elected officials including Mayor Steven Fulop, who said he knew another way to help Jersey City Together get a commitment from River Edge/Trendy Management to remedy the problems.
“While Esther Kaplan may not realize today her commitment, we will help her this week with city inspectors find that,” Fulop said.
After the meeting, attendees walked out of the church holding signs as they made their way a few blocks down to 205 Monticello Avenue, an apartment building run by River Edge/Trendy Management. They then gathered outside the building before several of them walked in to visit an apartment.
An organizer with Jersey City Together told this writer that what she saw inside the apartment were holes in the walls and rat droppings.
The coalition plans to hold another meeting about River Edge/Trendy Management at St. Paul Episcopal Church, 38 Duncan Avenue, this coming Saturday, April 1 at 10:30 am. People can also submit their stories about housing or landlord issues across the city at njtogether.org.
This article was written by Ricardo Kaulessar and was originally published on his blog Focal Point JC. Be sure to check out Ricardo’s blog and follow him on social media! JCI has republished this article with permission, copyright Ricardo Kaulessar.